Saturday, March 23, 2013

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Scalp Massage...and Then Some.

"Twin vibrators are very effective in giving scalp manipulations, and no barber shop should be without this type of equipment." -Standardized Textbook of Barbering, Third Edition


There was a time when barber textbooks instructed the young barber how to use technology to his advantage in building his career. Chapters on scalp manipulations and facials took up large portions of barbering textbooks. The information is useful, the technology now obsolete, and the diction suggestive and hilarious. Headings and passages such as: Principle of Vibrator Use, Using Twin Vibrators, "A single vibrator is a force if  not properly manipulated," "The vibrator be handled with slow, rotary or stroking movements, instead of hurried zig-zag movements over the face, thereby insuring the effectiveness of the vibrations," are common in both the Standardized Barbers' Manual and Standardized Textbook of Barbering. Thanks to the passage of time, the sexual revolution, and advances in technology, classic barber textbooks not only teach us something...they make us laugh too.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Unbecoming Hairstyles for the Bald(ing) Man

While both hysterical and heart wrenching, the comb over is probably the worst option for a balding man to pursue when considering a new hairstyle.

It is not worth typing any more words about the bad idea that is the comb over. But what is worth warning the bald(ing) fellow about, is four cornered flat top. This style may have worked for Kid n Play,
but it does not work for the bald(ing) gentleman. Now, I suppose that it could work for a man with a receding hairline, depending on the degree of recession, but it is no bueno for those kings without a crown.
The reason that the four corner flat top is a no go for a man who has lost the hair on the top of his head is that it evokes images of end zone pylons.
It is like telling people to stare at the area between the points, screaming out to the world to stare at the hair that is no longer there. Make sure to tell your barber to take those edges in if he or she insists on letting those wings fly. So if an old barber tells you that you should keep the back corners of that flat top because it will make you less bald...just say no.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Wonderful World of Cheese in Wisconsin: Ziege Zacke Blue

Wisconsin is one of the best places in the country for cheese (duh). The cheese aisles are bigger in the grocery stores, and those ridiculous hats seem less absurd here. Wisconsin is also home to a number of world-class artisanal cheese makers, which is fantastic, because I love cheese. I figured that since I am going to expand the scope of The Barber's Inquiry, I might as well hype up some of the great Wisconsin cheeses.

Ziege Zacke Blue is a part-cow, part-sheep, cave aged blue patterned after the "Dry Jack" cheese. The name literally translates to "goat wave," and is pronounced "ziggy zacky" (sort like that chant the audience would shout out before chugging a beer on the old Man Show). Ziege Zacke is the result of a collaboration between Wisconsin cheese superstars Chris Roelli, of Roelli Cheese, and Katie Hedrich of LaClare Farms, and it is delicious. A little tangy, sort of sweet, creamy, spicy, earthy...not that easily describable. Behold the power of cheese, and a terrific example of teamwork.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Expanding the Scope of The Barber's Inquiry

Due to indolence, indifference, and a down right lack of hustle, the posts on The Barber's Inquiry have been few and far, far between. I want to ameliorate this problem. I want this blog to live on and avoid the fate that so many blogs have succumbed to. That is why I am going to expand the scope of The Barber's Inquiry to include topics outside of barbering and hair in general. So look forward to posts about anything from cheese to shears, from semiotics to pants, from books to beer...it will be a rollicking good time. Thank you.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Elvis Did Not Invent Rock n Roll...and He Was Not the First One with a Pompadour

Where did that goofy poof that can look just right with the proper amount of product and je ne sais quoi come from? The dangerous haircut is not indigenous to American soil, much to the chagrin of a small group of tonsorial history revisionists. The hairstyle mostly associated with greaser and fetishized Americana culture is named after a French noblewoman. A woman important enough in her time, that she was eulogized by Voltaire. Instead of conjuring up images of rockabilly cats with slicked back hair, maybe the pompadour should make us think of vast panniers (side hoops) and tiny shoes...

Madame de Pompadour, member of the French court, lover of the arts, and chief mistress of of King Louis XV lived from 1721-1764. Of course, her name is most associated with a curious hairstyle that she brought to the court. Actually, the name comes from a region in central France, named after the long defunct House of Pompadour. Madame de Pompadour was born Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, changed it to Jeanne Antoinette d'Etiolles when she married, and did not actually become the Marquise of Pompadour until 1745, when Louis XV purchased the marquisate of Pompadour. The King gave the estate, coat of arms, and the title of the marquisate to Jeanne Antoinette, making her a Marquise (upper mid level aristocrat) and unknowingly making hairstyle history. That is how she got her name, whether she was the first person to comb back the front portion of her hair over the ratty mess directly behind it is lost to history.

That is what's in a name for the pompadour, at least historically speaking. The beloved mass that sits atop many a greasers' head was first attributed to an 18th century French aristocrat, not Elvis. Now, why that mass tickles the fancy of so many people is another story altogether... 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Is it the Barber's Pole?

In Minnesota, the debate over who can legally display the barber's pole  is garnering enough attention that it has become national news. Barbers are concerned about establishments who do not employ a barber, yet still display that familiar red, white, and blue pole outside of the shop. Those who need a quick refresher on the history of the barber's pole can read this. The barbers in Minnesota point out that shops that do not employ a barber are not barber shops, and therefore should not legally be able to display a barber's pole. Other states have legislation making it unlawful to display a barber's pole where no barber is employed, but what is this debate really about barbers versus cosmetologists, or barbers versus the chain stores?

     It may be a little bit of both. The laws that differentiate a barber from a cosmetologist vary from state to state. Texas, for example, has separate state boards for Barbers and Cosmetologists, each with its own license and certification examination. While in Wisconsin, there is only one Barber/Cosmetology board and one type of license. Minnesota's laws are more similar to those of Texas, in that there are separate state boards. The separate state boards may strengthen a license holder's identification with the title "barber," and with that, the connection to the barber's pole. That may be why those who use hot lather and blades are hot and bothered by those who do not.

     The question remains, who owns the right to display the barber pole? Obviously, the sign signifies an establishment where hair is cut. But whose hair is cut is another story all together. The William Marvy Company, the only manufacturer of barber poles in North America actually manufactures poles for pet salons. Instead of red, white, and blue stripes, the pole features spiraling red poodles on endless loop. This amusing novelty bears no symbolic meaning steeped deep in history as the barber's pole does, but it does take the kitsch factor to eleven.

     Whether restricting poles to only barber shops (in states that have individual barber licenses) will save the old fashioned barber from eventually being pushed out by the chain haircut factories (it will not) is yet to be seen. The ritual of getting a haircut is different than it was fifty years ago, and the role of the barber has changed. It is best for the barber to redefine him or herself, as many are doing, and to not worry about who can or cannot display a barber's pole. That's just my two cents.